Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, a remake of Fire Emblem Gaiden, arrives next week, so you'll have to wait until then to read our review. However, I've been playing through the game for the past day or so and thought, given how tight-lipped Nintendo and Intelligent Systems have been about what's actually in the game, it might be worth listing my big takeaways so far as a series fan. I'm going to keep it light on spoilers as much as possible, but if you want to go in blind you probably should just wait to play the game yourself.
There are multiple protagonists
Both Awakening and Fates gave players a blank slate character whose gender they can select. Fire Emblem Echoes, instead, has two protagonists that you jump between: warrior Alm and priestess Celica. The two characters are friends in the prologue who become separated by an event that happens early on in the game.
There are dungeon-crawling segments (kind of)
At specific points in Echoes, you and your party enter caves, castles, and various other structures. The world shifts from an overhead map view to one of Alm or Ceclia in third-person as you navigate the dungeon in a view that's similar to Persona 4 and 5's dungeon-crawling perspective. However, the battle system remains the same: Whenever you run into an enemy, the game shifts back into an overhead tactical battle view. During these segments you can also explore for useful items hidden in smashable crates and pots.
A time-turning mechanic makes battles easier
As is expected with Fire Emblem games, Echoes is challenging, especially if you have permadeath turned on. However, there is a device in your inventory you can use to move back a certain amount of turns. However, after you've used up the device's power, it won't recharge until after your battle is over.
The way you change classes is different
In Fates and Awakening, you would use an item called a Second Seal to change a character's class. This allowed you to be flexible in battle prep, transforming knights into archers or spearmen depending on what you needed in your army. In Echoes, you don't need an item. You often find a shrine at the end of various dungeons that belongs to Mila, a goddess. These shrines allow you to change classes for characters who have leveled up enough.
Casting magic costs health points
Instead of having a mana bar, spellcasters use their own HP to cast spells, so keep your restorative items stocked for those units.
The storytelling is text heavy
The previous two Fire Emblem games have combined visual novel-esque storytelling with animated cutscenes. Echoes mimics this but it's on the text-heavy side, with a lot of visual-novel storytelling. The scenes are voice-acted too, if you just want to listen and not read. Still, you're going to be thumbing your way through slideshows quite a bit.
First-person exploration sequences let you grab useful items
Usually when you take a keep or dungeon in Echoes, you get the ability to look around it in first-person, exploring with a cursor. Some things you can just examine and Alm/Celica will give their two cents about whatever the object is. You can also talk to people for background on the continent of Valentia, where Echoes takes place. However, these structures also have useful items (like a lightning sword!) and food that can restore your health during battle. You just look around the environment and click on the object to put it in your inventory.
The jury is still out on romantic relationships
One of the key aspects of Fates and Awakening has been pairing off couples together, marrying them, and then having their children fight in battle. Neither Nintendo or Intelligent Systems has confirmed if that function is in the game. We don't have the definitive answer yet. However, at six hours in, I have not had the option to have any of my units romance each other. There is definitely some semblance of a support system going on, with characters able to talk to each other in battle, but I haven't seen it play out romantically for anyone yet.
Check back next week for our review.